Getting your zzz's could make you a better runner. Here's how to drift off to a peaceful sleep.
The biggest secret to set yourself up for success is not endless hours of training, eating right or working hard. It’s sleep.
Yes, sleep is the key to picking up your running pace, reaching a work goal or losing weight. But so many of us—and I’m guilty of it too—put sleep on the bottom of our daily to-do lists. Without sleep, your body doesn’t function correctly.
“Studies show that over time, people who are getting six hours of sleep, instead of seven or eight, begin to feel that they’ve adapted to that sleep deprivation—they’ve gotten used to it,” sleep expert and PhD Phil Gehrman says. “But if you look at how they actually do on tests of mental alertness and performance, they continue to go downhill. So there’s a point in sleep deprivation when we lose touch with how impaired we are.”
In fact, sleep costs the United States about $66 billion and results in approximately 100,000 traffic accidents, 76,000 injuries and 1,500 deaths a year, according to Sleep.org. Staying up for 24 hours straight and then getting behind the wheel is like driving with a blood-alcohol content that deems you legally drunk in all 50 states.
If you continue to lack a good night of Zzz’s, the side effects can be quite nightmarish:
- Decreases alertness
- Causes accidents
- Increases your risk for disease
- Kills your sex drive
- Ages your skin
- Makes you forgetful
- Increases your risk of injury
- Gain weight more easily
- Impairs judgment
The hours needed varies per adult, but The National Sleep Foundation suggests:
Young adults (18 to 25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours
Adults (26 to 64): Sleep range does not change and remains 7-9 hours
Older adults (65-plus): Sleep range is 7-8 hours
Adding just 2 to 3 hours more per week can add up in big ways. Fight the struggle and actually get a good night’s sleep with these hacks.
You don’t need sleeping pills to help you drift to sleep. Use tools that will help you relax and fall asleep with ease. Ryan Heaney, president of Marc Pro says, “If soreness and tightness is reduced then there’s no doubt that you’re in for a better night sleep. Everyone knows that if you’re more comfortable you’ll sleep better (think mattress sales), but often neglect to think about how getting rid of stiff/tight/sore muscles and joints will help them even more.”
Try: Foam rolling, Epson salt baths, lavender oil, electronic muscle stimulation (massage setting)
Invest in Good Bedding
You spend 7 to 9 hours in bed. That’s roughly 3,000 hours a year. If you’re going to spend that many hours in bed, you ought to invest in a good-quality mattress, pillow and bedding.
When selecting a bed, take your time. Spend about 15 to 20 minutes on each mattress to get a good feel for it. Wear comfortable clothing when shopping and don’t be afraid to lie down. After all, you’ll be spending many hours on this mattress.
Avoid low-quality pillows—they’ll just leave you tossing and turning. Just like running shoes, a pillow should be fit to your likings and needs. BedGear has a line of pillows designed for athletes to help them increase sleep habits while picking the best firmness. Just answer a few questions to find out which pillow is right for you.
If you’re going to splurge on a mattress and pillow, then you ought to pick up good bedding. Sheex, made with moisture-wicking fabrics, regulates body temperature while you sleep—meaning you can get a good night’s rest without feeling hot or sweaty.
“There are nutrients that can help you fall asleep by triggering reactions in our brains. The most well-known nutrient is an amino acid called tryptophan. This essential amino acid—commonly recognized as the nutrient that causes the familiar feeling of fatigue after a hearty Thanksgiving meal–is generated through the consumption of carbs and protein,” explains Pam Nisevich Bede, dietitian at Abbott.
It’s also the precursor to the brain chemical serotonin, which can help you relax.
Another amino acid that can help you decompress and relax is L-Theanine. “You can find both of these in Myoplex Micellar Casein with Rest Matrix—slow-digesting casein protein will feed your muscles while you rest” suggests Bede.
Try: Fortified cereal with milk, peanut butter on toast or simply a warm glass of milk for your bedtime snack.